Located in the Athens suburb of Holargos, Root 56 offers a wide range of carefully selected gastronomical delights from small producers all over Greece, urging us to reconnect with our culinary roots.
The boutique deli concept is not new to Greece but rarely is it done quite so artfully as at Root 56.
An imaginative and contemporary version of the traditional grocery store, it is a warm and welcoming space reflecting the earthy authenticity of the Greek rural landscape. A delicatessen with modern design and aesthetics, it extends an invitation to simultaneously travel to every corner of Greece, exploring its unique flavours, and return to the roots of the Mediterranean diet.
The owner, Thanassis Kaliakmanis, is an architect with a passion for food. He is personally involved in the selection of the items sold in the store, and has devoted much of his time travelling all over Greece in search of the best local products, all firmly rooted in the famed Mediterranean diet.
To create the space that would ideally showcase these culinary treasures, he collaborated with another architect, Lefteris Abatzis. Their aim was to reinvent the much-loved, traditional grocery store, creating a warm and natural yet polished space, with strong visual and contextual links to the agricultural origins of the products themselves.
Drawing their inspiration from the now defunct bucolic architecture of rural Greece, such as the stables, barns and haylofts that used to dot the Greek countryside, Lefteris and Thanassis adapted and successfully integrated elements of these traditional structures, such as the high, vaulted ceiling, into their design for the store. The colour palette and textures also reference the materials traditionally used to construct these buildings, such as wood, earth and straw. The result is a fresh take on an architectural genre that no longer exists: a “futuristic barn” of sorts.
The dominant material within the interior is oriented strand board (OSB), an engineered chipboard made from compressed strips of wood in the warm colour of straw, creating an organic look and feel. A gridded frame made of OSB forms multilevel recesses, which serve as the shelves on which the merchandise is displayed. The same material has been bent and CNC-milled to form the arch on the ceiling, creating the feeling of a wooden cave or a hive.
In stark contrast, an elongated, rectangular copper bench runs centrally along the length of the store, doubling as a display case for wine and storage unit.
A crucial element of the overall design aesthetic is the lighting, which comes from linear LED elements hidden within the shelving grid, creating an effect reminiscent of sunlight filtering through the cracks in a barn. The lighting composition is completed by the two large blown glass lamps apparently floating over the space.
And while it may be the aesthetics that will first draw you in, it’s the content that will make you linger. In Root 56 you will find a large selection of traditional and artisanal goods by more than 100 small companies and producers from all over Greece, including honey, jams and fruit preserves, olives, olive oil and vinegar, coffee, tea and herbal drinks, herbs and spices, nuts and dried fruit, chocolates, cookies and biscuits, pulses and legumes, pasta, cheese, yogurt, cold cuts, wine, beers, liqueurs, and more.
Root 56 also regularly holds product tastings and open evenings with the producers. For more information on these events or their current product range, visit Root 56’s website.
56 Pericleous Street, Holargos
Architectural design: Eleftherios Abatzis, Thanassis Kaliakmanis
Photography: George Fakaros